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Will framing obesity as a disease improve access to treatment services for people with obesity?

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, March 02, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Project Description

28.7% of adults in England have obesity. Obesity is a risk factor for many chronic debilitating conditions yet treatment services for obesity are severely limited. Health professionals and the public hold stigmatising views, with many blaming the individual and believing that simple self-restraint is the answer. Often people with obesity also hold these views1 meaning that when treatment services are available there is often reluctance from individuals to attend due to self-blame2.

Advocates for people with obesity, including the World Obesity Federation, have taken the position that obesity should be classified as a disease3. They believe that this will result in an increased understanding of the complexity of obesity aetiology and treatment, and increased provision of high-quality care. However, there is no research to back up this theory and the consequences of recognising obesity as a disease have not been explored.


1. To explore how defining obesity as a disease could affect the beliefs and behaviour of those with obesity who have not previously accessed treatment services
2. To explore how defining obesity as a disease could affect the beliefs and behaviours of staff in primary care (GPs and practices nurses) in their care of people with obesity
3. To consider how health care in the NHS would differ if obesity was classified as a disease with equal importance to other conditions.

The student will conduct in-depth qualitative interviews with people with obesity who have never accessed a treatment service (aim 1). Primary care staff from across the UK will be invited to complete an online questionnaire (aim 2). Finally, a group of local primary care staff, people with obesity and public health specialists will be invited to participate in a novel process using speculative fiction (aim 3).

The final output of this project will be aimed at policy makers, summarising the findings and any recommendations for future action.


Funding Notes

Applications should be made directly to Dr Brigit McWade and should include :

CV (max 2 A4 sides), including details of two academic references
A cover letter outlining your qualifications and interest in the studentship (max 2 A4 sides)

How good is research at Lancaster University in Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 64.40

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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